Shrieking Shack from Pottermore

This Plot Hole in ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ Drives Me Crazy

There’s a plot hole in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that drives me to distraction, if I think about it too much.

I don’t usually look for plot holes. I have an incredible talent for suspending my disbelief, which is a requirement for any story. Some entertainment junkies are like me, willing to go along with pretty much any plot device. Others, like my husband, can’t enjoy something if it’s not firmly grounded in a consistent reality. In fact, if we see a movie or TV show together, when he questions me about perceived plot holes, I almost always cobble together a fantastic answer, which doesn’t usually satisfy him.

The first time I spotted this giant plot hole in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I had already read it (and the other Harry Potter books) several times. (I lost count.) When I realized it was possible that J.K. Rowling overlooked this problem, the feeling was akin to finding out that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real. I was devastated!


I still worship J.K. Rowling and admire her unbelievable ability to play the long game for even the tiniest details. For instance, the Vanishing Cabinet makes its first appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s referenced again in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Fred and George shoved Montague into a “broken” cabinet. (Peeves dropped it in Chamber of Secrets, hence the state of disrepair.) And, you’ll remember, it played a big part in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It was seen again in the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

So how could she have missed this?

As you’ll recall, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black was believed to be a ruthless killer who was out to get Harry. Hogwarts was on high alert. (In the wizarding world, it’s probably something like DEFCON aubergine.) The Ministry of Magic placed Dementors around the perimeter of the school. Dumbledore and the staff increased security measures throughout the castle.

The closest Sirius got to Harry (before Harry made his way to the Shrieking Shack, that is) was the door to Gryffindor tower. The Fat Lady refused him entrance, he shredded her portrait, and she fled to another painting. Of course, all this was discovered after the fact, when Sirius was already gone.

Now, jump ahead to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. At this point, Sirius escaped capture and was hiding out in a cave near Hogsmeade. He and Harry were on wonderful terms, after Harry found out that Peter Pettigrew was the one who had betrayed his parents, and that Sirius was Harry’s godfather. The two of them corresponded frequently through Owl Post.

But remember what happened when Sirius was so distraught over Harry’s latest missive that he absolutely needed to talk to Harry? Hm? Do you remember?

He appeared in the fireplace of Gryffindor common room and spoke to Harry.

Gryffindor Common Room from Pottermore

Gryffindor Common Room CR: Pottermore

Why the hell didn’t he do that in Prisoner of Azkaban? He could have waited until Harry was alone in the common room, or with Ron and Hermione, popped up and said, “Don’t be alarmed. It’s just me, your godfather, Sirius. Guess what? I wasn’t the one who betrayed your parents. It was that dirty, stinking rat who’s sitting on Ron’s lap!” To take it one step further, he could have just used the Floo Network to get his whole body into Gryffindor tower!

Before you say, “Wait, Nancy, he couldn’t have just popped into the fire for a chat. Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and the rest of the staff had protections in place.” To that I say, bollocks! Because, remember, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, he continued to talk to Harry through the fireplace, even after Umbridge put the Floo Network under surveillance. It wasn’t until Umbridge’s fat, stubby hand reached into the fire to grab him that Sirius decided that the fireplace method of communication wasn’t terribly safe, after all.

And before you say, “Here, now, have a care. He was on the run. He didn’t have a fireplace handy,” I say bollocks to that too. He specifically said in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that he broke into a wizard’s house to use their fireplace.

So, ha! I would give my eye teeth to be able to ask J.K. Rowling about that. She has answered plenty of other fans when they’ve pointed out discrepancies — or what they thought were discrepancies, only to have Jo explain it all away. I would love to hear exactly why Sirius Black didn’t use the Floo Network in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

THAT is the one plot hole in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that drives me crazy.

Want more about Harry Potter? Download my free ebook Harry Potter In-Depth: Beyond Butterbeer and Boggarts. You’ll learn more about the Crouch family, the Resurrection Stone, and what it means to be a Harry Potter geek.


This one PLOT HOLE in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban drives me crazy! Find out what it is.

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10 Comments

  1. Huh….Now I’m sitting here stumped trying to rack my brain and wrap my thoughts around this. Interesting thought, but I feel like there must be some explanation…then again, something is bound to be overlooked in that much text over that many books over that long of story. It just happens I think, unfortunately

    • Absolutely! It’s just that I so worshiped J.K. Rowling that, when I saw it, it was a blow. Which is unfair to her! But there it is.

  2. Amber

    That is a very good point, but you also have to look at it from the point of view of Sirius at the time. Sirius was very much hated by Harry. He couldn’t try to talk sense in the kid not even Harry’s best friends could. Sirius only appeared when he was trying to hurt peter not really to talk to Harry, until of course Remus basically forced him to explain the situation. Even when Sirius entered the tower he seemed to know exactly what he was doing waiting until everyone was out at the feast before going for Pettigrew. I have a theory that Sirius didn’t think he deserved Harry’s forgiveness or didn’t think Harry would listen. More-on Sirius didn’t believe he deserved forgiveness, would have to fall into His time in Azkaban. True, Sirius was innocent but the dementors don’t just leave you alone because your innocent. They attacked Harry even when he didn’t do anything. Sirius has been in an oppressive atmosphere for longer then he knew James Potter. He was only clinging to the belief that’s he was innocent, he must of just accepted that just as everyone was pushing the guilt of the Potters death on him. He realized that was what Harry knew as true and needed to explain in person everything and he needed an alive Pettigrew as proof of his innocence. Sirius couldn’t have just popped into the fire and startled the boy yelling madness. No even Harry would believe him.

    • You might be right. Still, he must have been pretty desperate to shred the Fat Lady, so I think he’d be desperate enough to risk freaking out Harry.

      • Harri

        He didn’t shred the fat lady because she wouldn’t let him see Harry though, he was trying to get to Pettigrew. He wasn’t there to form a relationship with anyone he was just trying to kill the rat.

  3. Kriti

    Harry wouldn’t have believed him. He needed to “show” him that scabbers was Peter Pettigrew and for that he had to be physically present there. He couldn’t have done it by talking through the fire. At the ither instancss he just needed to talk which was possible from the fireplace.

  4. Mj

    This popped up on my Pinterest for some reason and makes zero sense. Sirius was in no way at all trying to reach Harry. All he wanted was revenge on Pettigrew. That’s it. He broke into the common room and went straight for scabbers not harry. I don’t think he ever even thought for a second about harry before the shrieking shack. Your supposed plot hole just doesn’t make sense. Never once does it seem like Sirius is out to find harry, or even Lupin his best friend. He spent so much time in Azkaban all he wanted was revenge. I still think if it wasn’t for Lupin, he wouldn’t have explained much to Harry even then. Him visiting Harry for no reason through the fireplace makes no sense because they had no relationship at all and Sirius just wanted Pettigrew. It would make more sense if Sirius visited Lupin as they were best friend but clearly Sirius didn’t care about anything besides Pettigrew. The big supposed plot hole there is is that harry never noticed Pettigrews name on the marauders map all the time he had it.

    • If he wanted Peter Pettigrew, he could have used the Floo Network, and didn’t. He used it in Order of the Phoenix when he was on the run and in hiding. Still a plot hole.

  5. There is absolutely no way he could have used the Floo network, he was on the run and you cant just floo into Hogwarts, you can only floo into Dumbledore’s office which wouldn’t have been good considering Dumbledore didn’t know he was innocent.

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